BROOKSVILLE — All D.S. Parrott Middle School students are familiar with Doug Wilhelm's story The Revealers. It is one of 15 Sunshine State Young Readers Award winners in 2005 and was nominated for the 2004 "Teens' Top Ten" list of the Young Adult Library Services Association, a division of the American Library Association.
The story, about bullies and their victims, was one of the current year's schoolwide book reads. During a book read, teachers, administrators and teacher's assistants read the same book aloud to all students. "I think it has engaged more kids to want to read," said Writing Resource teacher Walt Cermak.
Wilhelm, who lives in Vermont, came to Parrott to talk to students Friday.
He presented at two assemblies, addressing the entire student body, and held a two-hour workshop for sixth- and seventh-grade journalism students, and selected eighth-graders.
The 6-10, white-haired author read passages from his book and engaged students during the assemblies, instructing them to pay attention to their feelings when they read. He encouraged them to be strong readers and to get involved in the books they read.
He read one passage about a bully pouring cold root beer over his victim's head. He said he researched how that felt by doing the very thing to himself as he stood in his bathtub.
"I was a bully target in middle school," he said. "I was the weird kid."
At the workshop with a much smaller group, Wilhelm shared writing strategies. Using big tablets, he and the students brainstormed, wrote rough drafts and revised short stories. As the students shared their stories aloud, Wilhelm pointed out things he liked, style types and what might need to be improved.
His advice was to think about the readers. Find the exact, right words. Be consistent and colorful.
Eighth-grader Laura Hernandez, 14, was at the workshop. She said she really likes writing and goes home after school and just writes. Wilhelm taught her "to keep going and if you mess up, it's okay, because it's not going to be perfect." Revision can come later.
Matt Noto, 14, another eighth-grader, asked to go to the workshop because he really likes to write. "I learned how to start and just brainstorm," he said.
He was interested in learning about the publishing process, because he wants to be a writer. He plans to be in the journalism academy at Hernando High next year.
Seventh-grader Jeremiah Jackson, 13, said Wilhelm taught him to write, at this point anyway, "as a seventh-grader would write," or to write what he knows. Jeremiah hopes to play football and someday be a sports broadcaster.
Paulette Lash Ritchie can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.